Technical Support Resources

TCS Technical Support
 
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Troubleshooting: Learn About DCC: Decoder Programming: Misc. Topics
ELECTRICAL - TROUBLESHOOTING
ISSUES READING CV's
DECODER DOCUMENTATION
HOW HOT IS TOO HOT?
SELECTING A DECODER
DECODER RESETS
ADDRESSING
UNDERSTANDING LIGHT FUNCTIONS
ADVANCED CONSISTING (USING CV19)
KEEP ALIVE® COMPATIBILITY
LIGHTS - RULES FOR BULBS
LIGHTS - RULES FOR LEDs
MAINLINE PROGRAMMING
FUNCTION REMAPPING
DITCH LIGHTS
MARKER LIGHTS
MANUAL BEMF CALIBRATION - (WOWSound)
DECODER LOCK

LIGHT MODE vs. SOUND MODE
WOWSOUND "ROTATE" FEATURE
SMOKE UNITS (WOW501)
SPEAKER WIRING
WARRANTY - DECODER UPGRADES
WARRANTY - SUBMISSION PROCESS
DC/DCC OPERATION


Decoder Documentation and the Documents Tab

Question: Where can I find programming guides and documents for my TCS product?

By searching your product on our website, you can visit the "Documents" tab to see all of the related literature, documentation, and programming guides for your decoder.

When visiting any product on our website, just click the "Documents" tab on the product page. On this page, you will see a list of links to all of the relevant documentations for that particular item. For example, a sound decoder will have:

  1. Basic decoder literature
  2. The Comprehensive Programming Guide
  3. The Complete Sound Guide for that sound type (Steam/Diesel)
  4. The full list of sounds for all individual Versions
  5. The Audio Assist tree diagram for that sound type (Steam/Diesel - Current production version only)
  6. The 4-CV Guided programming tool for that sound type (Steam/Diesel)

We also offer specific pages for decoder documentation. Follow the links below to visit the listings for:

Decoder Documentation
Decoder Programming Tools & Resources
TCS' Documentation Wiki


Decoder Selection - WOW101 vs. WOW121

Question: What is the difference between a WOW101 and a WOW121?

WOW101 and WOW121 decoders are identical in practical application, meaning they are both capable of providing the same power output, same sounds, and same motor and lighting characteristics. The fundamental difference between them is that the WOW121 relies on a 21-pin motherboard to interface with a locomotive. If you are someone who is planning to 'update' a DC-only model to DCC, there are a few factors to consider:

  • Does this locomotive have a mounting solution for a motherboard, such as a clip or flat surface above the motor?
    • WOW101 decoders are intended as direct plug or hard-wire installations. If the locomotive features a mounting solution for a motherboard, that option is preferable.
  • If I use a motherboard, will there be enough clearance to put the shell back on?
    • TCS decoders fortunately feature an industry-leading low-profile design, and as such can fit into lower shells and tighter spaces much more easily. If width is a concern and a motherboard will not fit, WOW101 decoders are slightly narrower and may be preferable.
  • Do I need to re-motor?
    • If you need to replace your existing drivetrain with a newer or upgraded drivetrain, that system may have a mounting solution. See Point 1.
  • Would it be easier to wire my components directly?
    • Some times it's easier to just run wires directly to the pickups for track, motor, lights, etc. into a single harness rather than individual wires. If it is preferable to wire direct, the WOW101 is likely the better option.
  • Am I going to replace any bulbs with LED's?
    • TCS motherboards have on-board resistors for use with LED's. WOW101 decoders do NOT have integrated resistors. If using anything other than 12V bulbs, external circuitry/resistors MUST be added.

Your answers to these questions will determine if a hard-wire job or a kit installation are right for you and for your locomotive.

Question: I have (x) locomotive. What decoder do I need?

First answer these questions:

  • What scale?
  • Do you want sound?
  • Will this engine be run on DC or DCC?
  • Have you searched our Installation Resources for your model?
    • If you answered "Yes" to sound, search only the WOWSound Installations.
    • If you answered "No" to sound, select your scale.

Use the search box at the top of the page to narrow the list down by manufacturer or locomotive type. We recommend browsing by manufacturer to see all of your options.

I wasn't able to find my specific model. Now what?

If you cannot find your specific model in our list of installations, you can submit pictures of your model with the shell removed to our team via Facebook or via Email


Heat and Decoders: How Hot is Too Hot?

Question: How hot should my sound decoder get?

WOWSound and other TCS decoders should never get hotter than can be touched comfortably. You should be able to grab a hold of the decoder and not burn yourself; however, our decoders can get up to about 100 degrees based on the conditions presented to them without much of an issue - that would be a normal operating condition.

Things to look for would be the origin of the source of the heat. If your decoder has shrink wrap, look for places where it may be stretched - indicating heat is prevalent in that area. Also, if the amplifier is being "taxed" or overdrawn, it will get very hot. Conditions that would cause this would be:

  • Using a speaker which is rated at less than 8 Ohms and less than 2 Watts
  • Pumping 100% volume into a speaker which is not rated for 2 Watts or greater
  • Having a speaker with a loose cone or similar mechanical failure

These are the leading causes of excessive heat in regards to the audio amplifier. As a test, you can disconnect the speaker, or mute the decoder for an extended period of time to see if it cools off.

WOWSound audio amplifiers can supply upwards of 2.2 Watts of power at 100% volume into an 8 ohm speaker. If your speaker is not rated for 2 or more Watts, but is being supplied with a 100% volume output, the sound will distort and possibly pop and click.

If you are hearing distortion in the sound quality and/or have a hot decoder, it is recommended to reduce your master volume by at least 10%. If you are still hearing distortion or clicking when playing loud sounds like a longhorn/longwhistle, reduce by an additional 5% until it goes away. Each press of button 1 in the master volume menu of Audio Assist reduces the master volume by 5%. Don't forget to save your changes with button 8!

The resistance across the speaker should read between 7.2 and 8.8 Ohms. Readings outside of this range would indicate a failed speaker.

Note that there are also two high-probability failure conditions for speakers:

  1. Overdriving - If too much current is being passed through a voice coil that it is not rated to handle, it will fail immediately, or over time as the insulation on the wire or physical cone material breaks down. Our amplifiers put out over 2 Watts at full volume when playing loud sounds. Take note of the Wattage rating of your speaker and reduce your master volume as needed.
  2. Heat - When soldering wires to a speaker, it is best to overheat your iron in order to reduce your contact time. If your iron is too cold, it will increase your contact time, and result in more heat transferred into the voice coil and connecting wires. This can break down the insulation, or physically detach or break the wire at/near the pads on the speaker itself. We at TCS run our irons at 720 degrees F or higher to minimize contact time.



Problem: I tried these steps above and the decoder did not cool off.

If the heat source is not related to the audio amplifier, meaning it is still hot while the sound is muted for a long time or the suggestions above have made no difference, you may consider the following:

If the decoder is only hot after running for LONG periods of time, this is a reasonable condition and should not damage the decoder. Failures related to motor control tend to happen quickly, so if you can observe reliable long-term operation, there should be no reason for concern. Give your engine a break every once in a while or at slower speeds if you are concerned.

If you are not observing excessive heat during stationary conditions, it is likely that the heat is being created by the motor drives which is normal. If the heat is excessive, you may consider testing your motor current draw. Next check the current rating of your decoder to make sure you are not exceeding its capabilities! Current ratings of decoders can be found on their product page under the tab labeled "Specs". Note that these current ratings are for the entire power supply - motor, lights, and sound if applicable.

 


Manual Calibration (WOWDiesel)

It is possible to "dial in" the BEMF calibration via CV programming. If the automatic calibration didn't quite get it right, you can manually modify the BEMF settings. To do this, perform the following operations:

It is necessary to first know the existing calibration values prior to adjusting them so that you are not programming randomly or blindly.

TO READ YOUR EXISTING BEMF CALIBRATION SETPOINTS:
SET:
CV201 = 104
CV202 = 17
CV203 = 0
CV204 = 0

Once CV204 has been WRITTEN to, the decoder with fetch the information from the index you have selected (4:17), and populate it into CV203 and 204, overwriting the values you entered. The values you enter into CV203 and 204 do not matter when performing a READ operation on a TCS indexed CV The only important bit to remember is that in order to READ a TCS indexed CV you must add 100 to the primary index (CV201). CV204 MUST be written with ANY value to instruct the decoder to perform the operation.

To READ the value/data from the TCS indexed CV, read CV204 again after you have written all four CV's. This is your current LOW BEMF setting "idle setting" in which you will be notch 1. Decreasing this value will mean that notches 2-8 will happen sooner with lower loads. Increasing this value will require more "load" to increase the notch.

SET:
CV201 = 104
CV202 = 18
CV203 = 0
CV204 = 0
READ CV204: This is your current HIGH BEMF setting "notch 8 setting." Decreasing this value will decrease the dynamic range, resulting in faster notch transitions. Increasing this value will result in more dynamic range, and greater loading in order to notch up.

TO SET NEW BEMF SETTINGS:
SET:
CV201 = 4
CV203 = [17 OR 18] (High/Low BEMF setpoint)
CV203 = 0
CV204 = [Your Desired Value]

It is advised to work in steps of +/- 5 at a time. If you find that you have gone one step of 5 too far on either setting, go backward by a value of 2.

Additional information on how to manually calibrate can also be found in our WOWDiesel Programming Guide.

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

Smoke Unit Enable (WOW501)

To enable the smoke unit in the WOW501 program CV58 to a value of 9.

F5 turns on the coil and F6 turns on the fan full blast. These functions must be tied to those specific outputs. F6 is automatic, and does not need to be turned on with your throttle, otherwise the output will turn on full blast until it is turned back "off" to automatic. Those two outputs can also be used as on/off only. Depending on the coil unit you are using, it is recommended to change F5 to a "constant dim" effect which limits the power to the coil. This will extend the life of your coil, and prevent overheating in most cases. The dim generator you select can then be configured to a power level using the corresponding CV. This CV should be set to a level high enough to start producing smoke, but not much more.

[Example: CV55 = 44 CV64 = 1-30 {Your Desired Heat Level - depends on coil itself}]


Speakers - Wiring Multiple

When wiring a multi-speaker arrangement, the resistance of the individual speakers must be observed. TCS amplifiers are rated for 8 Ohms of output impedance at 2 Watts. If you have two 4 Ohm speakers, you must wire them in series. 8 Ohm speakers should also be wired in series unless the total wattage exceeds 2.5 Watts. Alternatively, you can also wire in parallel with a resistor in series, in order to match or exceed the 8 Ohms. Exceeding the load (resistance) rating on the amplifier will not cause stress, but may reduce the maximum volume output. Exceeding the power (wattage) rating of the amplifier will not cause damage to the amplifier.

Note that there are also two high-probability failure conditions for speakers:

  1. Overdriving - If too much current is being passed through a voice coil that it is not rated to handle, it will fail immediately, or over time as the insulation on the wire or physical cone material breaks down. Our amplifiers put out over 2 Watts at full volume when playing loud sounds. Take note of the Wattage rating of your speaker and reduce your master volume as needed.
  2. Heat - When soldering wires to a speaker, it is best to overheat your iron in order to reduce your contact time. If your iron is too cold, it will increase your contact time, and result in more heat transferred into the voice coil and connecting wires. This can break down the insulation, or physically detach or break the wire at/near the pads on the speaker itself. We at TCS run our irons at 720 degrees F or higher to minimize contact time.

 


Multimeter Troubleshooting

NOTE: This section requires the use of a digital or analogue multimeter to perform electrical checks.
 
NOTE: Continuity checks that include the rails must be performed with one lead connected or touched to the rail.
NOTE: ALL resistance measurements including continuity MUST be performed with the power OFF.
 

Check resistance/continuity for the following:

  • Left Rail to Right Rail
  • Orange to Grey (motor connected)*
  • Orange to Grey (motor disconnected)**
  • Left Rail to Orange
  • Left Rail to Grey
  • Right Rail to Orange
  • Right Rail to Grey
  • Speaker contacts (speaker disconnected)***

NOTE: NONE of the above tests should read 0 or near-zero.
 
*Without a decoder connected, resistance measurements of a typical HO-scale motor will read upwards of 200 Ohms, and will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Similarly, motors within different model scales will vary, but generally will remain within a certain range. A motor which reads 0 or infinite resistance between its terminals is absolutely bad in all circumstances. Resistance values below 50 Ohms will typically indicate a bad motor, with notable exceptions being "coreless" motors. NOTE: We recommend performing this test while rotating the flywheel. If you see large spikes in resistance upwards or downwards, this indicates poor brush connections or bad brushes, or a failed internal winding. Both of these circumstances can damage a decoder over time as they will often result in spikes of current outside of the maximum safe level.
**With the decoder disconnected from the motor, the resistance between the Orange and Grey wires should be exactly 20K Ohms (with about 100 Ohms tolerance one way or the other). A value in the single-digit KOhms, or MegOhms is unacceptable, and indicates component failure on the decoder.  A value of 0 Ohms is also unacceptable.
***Only applies to SOUND DECODERS - An 8 Ohm speaker itself should read Between 7.2 and 8.8 Ohms. If less than or greater than these numbers, the speaker has failed or is failing and should be replaced.
 
Check resistance/continuity for the following:

  • Left Rail to (Black) Power Pickup on decoder
  • Right Rail to (Red) Power Pickup on decoder

    
NOTE: These readings should be near-zero and not fluctuate.
 
 
Check DC voltage for the following:

  • Blue wire to ground
  • Orange to Grey (this test must be done with the motor disconnected) Gradually increase the speed step. You should see the DC voltage increase from 0 to ~12V. Reversing direction will also reverse the polarity of this reading.

    
Check AC voltage for the following:

  • Left Rail to Right Rail

 
NOTE: Voltage measurements are to be performed with power applied to the engine.

 


If you have additional questions, please reach out to our Technical Support
team through email or by phone during our open hours. Thanks!
 TCS Technical Support